Young Kids Skipping Fruits, Veggies at Worrying Rate

2 min read

March 8, 2023 – Half of young kids in the U.S. don’t eat vegetables daily, a new report says.

Overall, children were more likely to eat fruit daily than to eat vegetables daily. One-year-olds were more likely to eat fruits and veggies compared to 2- to 5-year-olds, and the youngest kids were also less likely to drink sugar-sweetened beverages.

The report was published by the CDC.  Data included dietary intake information for 18,386 children ages 1 to 5 years old, collected from the CDC’s 2021 National Survey of Children’s Health.

Key findings from the report include:

  • 1 in 3 children did not eat a daily fruit
  • 49% did not eat a daily vegetable
  • More than half (57%) drank a sugar-sweetened beverage at least 1 day a week

Whether kids ate fruits and vegetables daily varied by race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status. Black children were the least likely to eat fruits or vegetables daily, with 65% not getting vegetables at least 1 day a week and 51% not getting fruit. Households that reported not always being able to afford enough to eat were significantly more likely to report kids not eating daily fruits and vegetables.

The researchers also looked at state-level data, and healthy eating varied widely based on where kids lived. In 20 states, more than half of children didn’t eat a daily vegetable. The best performing state was Vermont, where about 70% of young kids ate vegetables daily. The worst performing state was Louisiana, where about 35% of kids ate daily vegetables.

The authors suggest that the findings should help tailor programs to help improve healthy eating for young children, which in turn could improve long-term health risks.

“Young children need specific nutrients to support their optimal growth and development,” they write. “A diet rich in fruits and vegetables can help provide these nutrients. Limiting or reducing foods and beverages higher in added sugars, including sugar-sweetened beverages, is important because added sugars are associated with increased risk of obesity, dental [problems], diabetes, and cardiovascular disease."